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When They Walk In The Room: The Searchers tribute 1958-2019

Rock & Roll can be said to be going through a phase of major retirements: Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath, Paul Simon, Sir Elton John, Slayer, Kiss, Phill Mogg of UFO and Gerry Marsden, all deciding to call time on their long careers.

The Searchers are another band who have also decided to lay down their instruments for the final time. Performing one last tour ending on March 31, 2019 in Milton Keynes, the band was highly successful between 1961 and 1967, maintaining a loyal following in the UK, Germany, Australia and in the USA. After a sixty-one year career in show-business however, like others who began around the same time, its time to bid a fond farewell to a long-established band.

Founded in 1958 by John McNally and Mike Pender in Liverpool, the Searchers took their name from a John Wayne western movie from the year before and around this time, McNally saw Buddy Holly and the Crickets live during their only UK Tour and it would become a big influence on the young guitarist.

After some changes over the first three years, the band finally settled on a line up in 1961 featuring the following:

- John McNally (Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals),

- Mike Pender (Rhythm Guitar/Lead-Backing Vocals),

- Tony Jackson (Bass Guitar/Lead-Backing Vocals),

- Chris Curtis (Drums/Backing-Lead Vocals).

Recording their first hits in 1961 with Jackson as lead singer, ‘Sugar and Spice’, followed by ‘Sweets for my Sweet’, the band shot to fame alongside the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Hollies, The Rolling Stones and others.

When the Beatles and The Dave Clark Five began performing in the USA, to teenagers looking for something different to Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, the Searchers were one of the acts to also take part in what became known as ‘the British Invasion’ pop culture movement.

Whilst British stations and record companies released ‘Sugar and Spice’ and ‘Sweets for my Sweet’ in 1961, in late 1963, the US Labels decided to use another song from the band's debut album. ‘Love Potion Number 9’ was chosen and it rocketed in to the US Charts at Number 3 on the Billboard 100. The band then released their biggest hit in both the UK and USA at the time, ‘Needles and Pins’, and it landed them a spot on the Ed Sullivan Show, which today can be found on YouTube.

Tensions began to brew in 1964 as the band began to reach the height of their career. Drummer Chris Curtis began to demand that the songs used in their albums and singles were songs he had picked out for the band. After getting Mike Pender to sing on ‘Needles and Pins’ as well as having bassist Tony Jackson sing only one song on the latest album (despite his voice being lead on the singles that made them), things boiled over quickly and Jackson quit the band. Remembering the group Cliff Bennet and the Rebel Rousers from their days performing in the Hamburg clubs, the group brought in Frank Allen, giving them a line-up of:

- Mike Pender (Lead Vocals/Rhythm Guitar),

- John McNally (Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals),

- Frank Allen